JM Coetzee becomes an Australian citizen

Nobel Prize-winning South African author JM Coetzee became an Australian citizen on Monday, saying he had been attracted by the country’s “free and generous spirit”.

Coetzee was born in South Africa in 1940 and his writing, which won him the Booker Prize twice as well as the 2003 Nobel Prize for Literature, reflected the sufferings of a country torn by the racial policy of apartheid.

He retired as an English professor at the University of Cape Town in January 2002, a post he had held since 1984, and moved to South Australia where he is an honourary research fellow with the University of Adelaide’s English department.

Coetzee became a citizen on Monday at a special ceremony conducted by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone. He said he had been drawn to Australia since his first visit 15 years ago.

“I did not so much leave South Africa, a country with which I retain strong emotional ties, but come to Australia,” he was quoted as saying by the national AAP news agency.

“I came because from the time of my first visit in 1991, I was attracted by the free and generous spirit of the people, by the beauty of the land itself and, when I first saw Adelaide, by the grace of the city I now have the honour to call my home.”

Vanstone said Coetzee’s decision to become an Australian citizen was a tremendous compliment to the country.

“We take pride in our diversity and our ability to live harmoniously with one another,” she said.

“In Australia we value basic rights—democracy and equality under law and equality of treatment and opportunity.

“Our strength as a nation flows from our joint commitment to these shared values. It is important that in these challenging times that Australian citizenship continues to unify us.” - Sapa-AFP

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